Not One Boss, Many Boss Me

My boss passed away a year ago, I was asked to stay on by his wife who was very distraught, and she or their two grown children had no knowledge of how to do anything for the LLC’s and properties he owned. I have worked here going on 10 years. I do everything for the properties. They are selling them off and the problem is I am not being managed by anyone but by all of them. There is even a relative in Florida that has made demands of me that were never part of my job. I felt bad for her and stayed on and have been thanked by many of her friends for my help, but the demands are becoming stressful and unreasonable. Even asking me to meet with people for a sale of their property when it should be the realtor who is making the commission on the sale and expecting me to drive and take care of this while they are away on vacations.

I am so frustrated and wondering why I just didn’t leave after his death. Would I be able to collect unemployment now if I left as I stayed on to help get their affairs in order. I did this out of the kindness in my heart for her, but now I feel pushed around and used. We are located in New Jersey. Thank you

Yes, if even what you describe is even half true, you have been and are used. Perhaps the more correct term is misused. Apparently you had no written contract as to what were your duties before your boss died, and afterward his death, his wife and sons, relatives and real estate agency have assumed you were there to do whatever they wanted. From what you say, the kindness of your heart made you comply. You are burned out and want out. We are not attorneys and our advice from a distance will do you little good. You probably need a labor attorney firm from New Jersey or NYC that has a license in NJ, before you exit. Often a first consultation will inform you if you have a case and what the fees will be. And if you need to search for a different firm.  

You don’t mention what your arrangement is for pay as of now. Nor do you mention how the wife and sons could manage if you kept all you know about their properties to yourself. Is not a beginning point to prepare a report of what you have done before and after this death and  to make copies of that. And what you have been paid. Such information will be part of a conversation with N J Labor Department and agency that handles unemployment compensation.

Rather than prescribe steps to take, here are several thoughts to mull over. If necessary take off work for a week or two. Your emotional and physical health have been stressed. If this were a game, you would need a 7th Inning break, time outs or a few days off when you could rest up. It seems you haven’t had vacations yourself or been able to sing in a barbershop quartet, or to work out, or to read for fun. I assume you have not laughed or smiled lately. You will find information and get ideas over the next few days and perhaps two or three weeks that will surprise you. I gather you are a discreet individual who is cautious about what you talk about with others. But you can learn alot by seeing yourself as a personal investigator and personal trainer working on behalf of yourself.

  1. Get yourself emotionally and physically in shape for this time of transition. You will want to feel that you can cope with whatever happens. You are what matters. You have been the caretaker for this family and they should be able to survive without you. Or make it very attractive for you to stay–with reasonable job description and compensation.
  2. What are your needs financially to provide for yourself and others for whom you are responsible. After ten years you should have savings that will keep you from poverty if you were fired, became ill or have an accident. 
  3. You apparently know a lot about this kind of property management. You should have skills that are wanted. Think of this as a time of exploration–to learn what you might do next.
  4. Consult those kinds of people with whom you have been doing this family’s business, NJ Department of Labor and attorneys should help.
  5. I predict the adventure of these four steps will tell you what to do next. Perhaps in the course of this you will be able to dream on paper–of what you must do and would like to do. 

See how easy it was to get someone who has no self-interest in thinking about one in your situation. All you had to do was candidly describe your life to Ask the Workplace Doctors. I hope these thoughts help you to know there are others who want you to feel enriched rather than used. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Might my signature sentence provide a way to think about how working with others should and can be? Please feel free to let me know how you find that you are resilient during the next few weeks.